Kentucky Santa

By Ken Young, serving in Japan

In December 2011, I stood in front of more than 80 people, mostly young children with their mothers, feeling as if I were dreaming. My wife, Kathy, and I—along with Pastor and Mrs. Takahashi of Mihara City and a few people from the Mihara Alliance Church—had just finished presenting the gospel at a Christmas gathering in the churchless mountain town of Daiwa. For several years, Kathy and I have worked with the Mihara Church to conduct monthly gospel meetings for about 10 to 15 people, most of them non-Christian farmers. The new pastoral couple of the Mihara church, Pastor Takahashi and his wife, hope to begin a church here someday soon. On that morning, probably every family group was represented. What a step forward! After more than 80 people had heard the good news—most for the very first time—I stood there a bit tired but enjoying the moment entirely.

I have put on some weight in recent months and am looked upon as a classic, gray-bearded grandpa. Often children just stop and talk with me.

After the meeting, a little girl stood at my feet with her friends. With a huge smile, she pointed at me and squealed, “Kentucky Santa!”

What in the world did she mean?

Several years ago, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) of Japan had a brainstorm: Nearly all of their restaurants installed an almost life-sized, painted fiberglass model of “Colonel Sanders” at their entrances. This statue of the Colonel has become practically an institution. During the holiday season, all of the KFC restaurants gird their “Colonel Sanders” with a Santa Claus outfit. Everyone in the country recognizes that symbol. This brilliant move has made Kentucky Fried Chicken almost synonymous with Christmas.

Naturally, the little girl, who saw my resemblance to the Colonel and heard me talk about Christmas, declared me to be “Kentucky Santa.”

Even though I’m Ohio-born and now a Floridian, I don’t mind. She, and probably everyone else who attended the gathering, will remember that morning for a long time, maybe forever. They sang Christmas carols and enjoyed delicious snacks. They experienced the uproariously fun and gospel-laden puppet show presented by Pastor and Mrs. Takahashi. They took home gifts of food and Christmas tracts. And, oh yes, they heard “Kentucky Santa” tell them about the real meaning of Christmas.

What You Can Do

The Youngs request prayer for rural outreaches and church-planting ministries in Daiwa, Kurose, Yasuura, and Higashi Hiroshima City. “The first three have no churches at all; the fourth has only one church for every 30,000 people,” they write.

Pray for the Youngs as they continue to share the good news of Jesus with the largest unreached people group in the world—the Japanese.

Pray, too, for Alliance workers around the world.

Give to the Great Commission Fund—partner with Alliance workers like Ken and Kathy to share Christ with those who haven’t yet heard the gospel.

Be sure to check out alife’s January 15 issue that includes more stories about the powerful, Kingdom-expanding impact of children’s ministries.


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